Neighborhood Dive: Sunny Isles Beach, Miami’s new billionaire playground

Porsche Design Tower urged developers to push the bar for luxury in the area

Clockwise from left: Porsche Design Tower, the skyline, Trump Royale and a rendering of Turnberry Ocean Club (Credit: ArX Solutions)
Clockwise from left: Porsche Design Tower, the skyline, Trump Royale and a rendering of Turnberry Ocean Club (Credit: ArX Solutions)

What do a Mexican mogul, a medical billion CEO and a venture capitalist have in common? They’re all new condominium buyers at Sunny Isles Beach, a tiny barrier island town chock-full of branded condo concepts that is fast becoming one of Miami-Dade’s most expensive places to buy a home.

The island was founded in 1920 by a private investor named Harvey Baker Graves, who envisioned Sunny Isles as America’s answer to Venice. Six years later, the “Great Miami” hurricane laid waste to Graves’ plans. Over the next six decades, developers came in and turned Sunny Isles into a sleepy tourist town. During the 1950s and 1960s, more than 30 motels opened along Collins Avenue, including the first two-story motel in the U.S., designed by famed architect Norman Giller.

After residents voted to incorporate Sunny Isles in 1997, the small village became a magnet for residential developers, who gobbled up the old motel properties and cashed in on the real estate boom of the early 2000s. Among the builders to introduce luxury high-rises was Dezer Development, which signed licensing agreements with the Trump Organization to brand its towers under the Trump name.

Signs of Change

Dezer Development also ushered in a new wave of luxury development in 2012 when it signed a master licensing agreement with Porsche Design Group to build a 60-story tower geared high-end car nuts. The Porsche Design Tower, which was completed last year, features 132-penthouse style units, each with its own garage that transports automobiles to the ground floor via a bespoke car elevator.

Porsche Design Tower urged developers to push the bar for luxury in the area. Turnberry Associates, for instance, hired architects Carlos Zapata and Robert Swedroe to design Turnberry Ocean Club. It stacked the project with amenities such as restaurants, a movie theater, a boardroom, a stock trading lounge, multiple swimming pools, two fitness centers, a dog walk, a salon and a full spa.

“Sunny Isles is becoming the place to live on the ocean,” said Daniel Riordan, Turnberry’s president of residential development. “You can’t develop anywhere else to the scale we are developing in Sunny Isles.”

Residential broker’s take

Sales have been slow but steady, with about 200 luxury condos on the market, according to ISG World’s Craig Studnicky. He pointed out that the location was attractive to families.

“These are people who don’t want the buzz of Miami Beach,” he said. “They want peace and quiet.”

Most expensive residential sale

$25 million: An 8,566-square-foot, four-bedroom, six-bathroom penthouse at Porsche Design Tower, 18555 Collins Avenue

Commercial broker’s take

Retail is mostly small mid-market clothing and restaurants geared to owners of older properties in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. “There is very little to no offerings for the high-end market, which is where we think the opportunity lies,” said Eduardo Bleiberg of Weichert Realtors Best Beach Real Estate.


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Sunny Isles Beach has a free community shuttle services that runs on two different routes seven days a week. One shuttle service runs from 8:00 a.m. to 7:35 p.m. and the other operates from 7:45 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. In addition, five Miami-Dade public bus routes pass through Sunny Isles Beach via Collins Avenue, the town’s main artery that also provides access to the 163rd Street Bridge and the William Lehman Causeway.

Demographic changes: 2000-2015

Population: 20,832, up 35 percent from 2000

Median age: 50

Median income: $91,619, a 65 percent increase from 2000

Average household net worth: $433,892

Price trends

Median sales price per square foot: $344, 43 percent higher than the rest of Miami-Dade County

Increase in average monthly rent over the last year: 5.7 percent to $2,012

Most expensive unit on the market: $35 million, a 19,160 square-foot penthouse at Turnberry Ocean Club with six bedrooms and 9.5 bathrooms

Cheapest unit on the market: $102,000, a 360-square-foot studio at Marco Polo Beach Resort

Looking to the future

Despite the slowdown in the luxury condo market, developers are still moving ahead on new projects. Russian developer Verzasca Group recently announced it will soon break ground on Aurora, a 61-unit tower on the west side of Collins Avenue where a Denny’s once stood. Last month, Aurora sales director John Warsing said the project is the first luxury condo development on that side of the street in more than a decade.

In early January, construction crews topped off Muse Residences, a 68-unit, 49-story tower being developed by Property Markets Group and S2 Development. According to PMG principal Ryan Shear, Muse is more than 70 percent sold and is set to open next year.

The Trump Group – which has no relation to President Trump – is set to begin construction on the south tower of the company’s Estates at Acqualina, a $1.5 billion project that also includes a north tower that was postponed amid the market slowdown. Estates will feature Karl Lagerfeld-designed lobbies.